New Leader Missteps: Avoiding 8 Potential Stumbling Blocks

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New Leader Missteps: Avoiding 8 Potential Stumbling Blocks

As a professional works her way up in an organization, she may eventually find herself stepping into a leadership role, managing her fellow employees. Being so promoted is an indication that upper management has faith in her ability and temperament to lead. Strong leadership, however, is not always a self-evident or naturally-occurring set of skills. Oftentimes, leadership proficiency must be learned, either by formal training or through trial and error.

Some common leadership missteps are certainly understandable and just as certainly avoidable. Here are some potential stumbling blocks a new leader may encounter - and how they can easily be dodged:

1. Failure to delegate

A new manager may relish the opportunity to take on more and new responsibilities. She should beware, however, of taking on too much herself. Eager to step up to the task, she may tend to try to do it all, failing to utilize the staff and other resources at her disposal. Prudent delegation of work among team members will make everyone feel important and valued while helping the leader avoid experiencing burnout.

2. Role ambiguity

Moving up through the ranks, a new leader may find herself suddenly in charge of individuals who were recently her peers. This could prove problematic in a couple of ways: 1) She could resist taking up the gauntlet she’s been bestowed out of fear of alienating her team with a degree of authority over them; or, 2) She could let the power of her position over those individuals go to her head; creating an uncomfortable and unfair authority dynamic. It’s important for a new leader to implement measures to retain relationships with coworkers while exerting her new authority in assertive, not aggressive ways.

3. Vague expectations

A new leader must, from the very start, thoroughly express her expectations for her team in a number of areas, including:

  1. any policy changes under her new authority
  2. accountability
  3. chain of command
  4. expected communication/documentation
  5. responsibilities
  6. conflict resolution

Spelling out these basic issues will help avoid misunderstandings and ensure that her team and she are on the same page moving forward.

4. Operating in a vacuum

It may seem natural for a new leader to think that she already has all the information she needs to do her job; but that’s far from the truth. It is imperative that she adopt a robust policy of seeking out the thoughts and opinions of her team - and regularly providing them with feedback in return. Leadership is much more than giving out orders and issuing directives. It’s dependent upon a reciprocal relationship in which both parties listen to and learn from one another.

5. Poor use of executive time

While the most effective of leaders will roll up her sleeves and pitch in whenever and wherever necessary, she should also develop a keen awareness of the value of her own time. Finding a comfortable balance between proving yourself a good team player and doing the work only you can do is critical to keeping your department working optimally.

6. Managing too much or too little

Every employee dreams of the day when she’s in charge. She wishes her boss would get off her back and just let her do her job without micromanagement. Alternatively, she wishes her boss would give her better guidance, more realistic expectations and consistent feedback. Your personal “dream” will strongly affect which type of leader you’ll want to be. Just be certain that you’re not going overboard by managing your employees too closely or too remotely so they can perform at their best.

7. Lack of empathy for employees

Even though you’ve been promoted to a more senior position, remember you were once among the ranks of those you now manage. You know their needs for flexibility, inspiration, advocacy and incentivizing as well as anyone. Allow that knowledge and sensibility to inform your decisions and actions as you lead.

8. Coasting (or, failure to commit to growth)

You have every right to be proud of your accomplishments on your way to achieving your position of leadership. Don’t, however, allow hubris to fool you into believing that there isn’t room for professional (and some personal) growth and development. With your greater responsibilities, it’s more important than ever to stay sharp and keep on top of both your industry and people skills.

As a new leader, you’re excited to get off on the right foot in the position and with your team. Leadership isn’t necessarily an inborn trait. These tips will help you avoid stumbling as you gain your stride.

What new leadership missteps have you avoided - or overcome?

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